Crossroads Middle School students spent Thursday morning in special seminars on community engagement, service learning and income inequality. They discussed being active in their neighborhoods, delved into social issues and offered solutions for improving the world around them.
The activities were held across the 21st Street Campus as students prepared to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16, when people across the country commemorate the late civil rights leader.
The assemblies, which were held the same week as President Barack Obama’s farewell address, exemplified Crossroads’ incorporation of equity and justice topics into the educational program at all grade levels.
“Just like Martin Luther King and President Obama,” Middle School teacher Marcelo Vaz told students after they watched an Obama video clip, “we are pushing you guys to get out there and get involved.”
Many students have already taken up service projects on their own. Eighth-grader Katrina Sorochinsky recently traveled to Kenya to learn about the needs at Harambee Community Centre, a school and multipurpose facility. She’s hoping to raise money to improve the center’s computer program.
Students brought up a wide variety of engagement opportunities, noting international issues as well as those closer to home.
“You don’t have to be at a high level,” Middle School teacher Brian Austria said. “You can take care of your own neighborhood.”
Seventh-grader Lucy Kahan said it was illuminating to hear the juxtaposed perspectives of King and Obama as she and her classmates explored aspects of community service.
During another session, students explored income inequality. Volunteers were asked to demonstrate disparities in wealth for different socioeconomic groups by standing at different spots along a line graph that spanned the length of the room and stretched into an adjacent hallway.
“You don’t really understand it until you see it like that,” seventh-grader Sara Offer said. “It makes you want to help others.”